Going on a road trip this Memorial Day Weekend? Here are some great traveling tips from our guest blogger, Cindy McCarthy with OntheGoChicago.com, on having adventures and discovering Americana along the way.
One of the things I enjoy most about road trips is experiencing Americana. My family goes on at least one long road trip a year (many over 3K miles), and we’ve become experts at breaking up those long drives with interesting and often quirky stops. These great diners, pop culture locations, obscure monuments and GIANT statues are, in my opinion, one of the things that makes this diverse nation so fun to explore.
Here are some of the resources we use to find fun things to break-up our drive and experience our surroundings. In fact, we’ve even planned entire trips around visiting some of these quirky examples of Americana!
My husband reads the travel section of the Tribune each weekend as well as USA Today and WSJ when he is on business travel each week. He regularly clips articles about interesting restaurants and stops, and saves them in a folder for future trips. USA Today pointed us to the best burger in NY, The Burger Joint and the Tribune inspired our trip to the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan.
There are a number of books to choose from in the travel section of your local bookstore that specializes in helping you find “Americana” and other interesting stops. Here are a few of my favorites.
- 1000 Places To See Before You Die and 1000 Places To See in the U.S.A. and Canada Before You Die – We own both of these books, and have found countless ideas for fun weekend trips and great restaurants, attractions and hotels to check out around the world. At the end of each trip, we write the date and our rating of each of the “1000 Things” places we went to. It has become a family tradition. These books make a wonderful gift too.
- James Dean Died Here – This book will tell you the locations of great pop culture landmarks. It includes everything from where Apple Computer was born to the sites of famous assassinations. We’ve visited Richie Cunningham’s house in Los Angeles and the famous gym from the movie Carrie in Hermosa Beach, California just to name a few our stops inspired from this book.
- Off The Beaten Path- This book has great ideas for scenic drives. We’ve been on some amazing drives inspired by reading this book including Highway 1 between LA and San Francisco, Avenue of the Giants (a scenic drive through the Red Woods in Northern California) and the Blueridge Parkway in the Smokey Mountains.
- The Great American Road Trip – This book has all of the amazing little Americana stops we love so much. If you want to know what city the largest ball of twine is in or where to find the giant dinosaurs from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, this is the book for you.
My husband has an unusual affinity for the atlas. He regularly breaks out an atlas when we are home watching TV or when he is reading the paper. The man is just plain curious! His Atlas of choice is the Rand McNally Road Atlas. They have little red squares that are labeled with points of interest. He dragged me an hour and a half out of our way on our move/road trip from LA to Chicago to see the highest point in Iowa, Hawkeye Point. We also found The Corn Palace in Mitchelle South Dakota through the Atlas, which is honestly a gem!
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network
My hubby and I love this show, and have visited a number of Guy Fieri’s recommendations. In fact, before embarking on a trip, my husband will look up the cities we will be in or near on Guy’s website to find some great dining options. We visited Manci’s Antique Club in Daphne, AL last year on our way to FL to see the in-laws. It was delicious, and had some of the most interesting decor I’ve ever seen.
For us, discovering Americana is what makes the journey so fun. What types of stops does your family enjoy on road trips?
In addition to looking for ways to have more “Chocolate Cake Moments” with her two daughters, Cindy McCarthy is an urban explorer of kid-sized Chicago and author of www.onthegochicago.com, a blog that highlights where to go eat, shop, play and learn in Chicago. You can also follow Cindy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/onthegochicago or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gogogoChicago.
Thanks Cindy! These are great tips. For more information on family road trips, read How to Make Family Road Trips More Fun as well as all of our tips and ideas on how to make family travel easier and more fun.